For those of you who are wondering what it means that we are beginning the process of an international adoption, I thought that I would give you a rough timeline of what we can expect. Mind you, this will be a VERY ROUGH timeline because to be completely honest, I don't even know exactly what to expect :)
We sent in our application on January 3, and we expect to hear back from AAI within about 2 weeks to find out if we have been officially accepted into their program and on their first waiting list. Because AAI is such a well-known and well-respected agency, they have a large number of families who apply to adopt through them. This means that families have to wait a little bit longer. We will likely have to wait for about 2-3 months before we can get started on the homestudy and dossier paperwork that we need to get together and send to the Ethiopian government. We will also have to submit paperwork to the US Dept. of Immigration. During the process we will have to have background checks and be fingerprinted as well.
Once we start the homestudy and dossier preparation, I expect that it will likely take a couple of months to complete this step.
When the dossier has been sent to and accepted by the Ethiopian government, then we begin our second wait. This wait will be while AAI locates children who match our criteria. AAI has not been able to estimate how long this step will take. It will all depend on which children are in the orphanages that AAI works with at the time we are ready and which other families are in the process at the same time we are. It could be anywhere from 1 month to 4 months for this (maybe longer, maybe shorter).
When they find children who fit our criteria, they send us pictures of them and medical and personality information (this is called the referral) and we decide whether or not these kids are right for us. If so, we officially accept the referral and we start ANOTHER waiting period. We wait for our case to go to Ethiopian court, where they will officially declare the children "ours". So, even though they won't yet be home, they will legally be our children.
Then, the next wait. We wait for the date of our embassy appointment where we will be issued visas for our children so they can travel home with us. Once we have the embassy appointment, we are free to travel and pick up our kids!
We are hoping that this entire process will proceed quickly and we will have our kids home by Christmas 2007! It could go quickly, depending on several factors (like whether or not we identify children ourselves from a waiting child list) or it could go slowly. Either way, it looks like there will be a lot of hurry-ups and waits in the next year. Hurry up and get the paperwork done....Hurry up and get the homestudy done...wait...wait...wait. But it will all be totally worth it in the end.
The process of international adoption is no easy task. But one thing is sure. Our kids will always know that we worked very hard to get them home. And that we took a very active part in bringing them home because we love them...and we wanted them.